Performing Arts: Dance
July 24, 2017
The Joyce’s Ballet Festival presents small dance groups in mixed bills, with Claudia Schreier and Company featuring Ms. Schreier’s choreography. When the dancers are principals from New York City Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem, and you have a live music quartet, a choir onstage, and the Joyce Theater as your venue, expectations will be pretty high. Yet the evening suffered from a pretty conventionalism in the Balanchine mold that took little risk, but was nonetheless warmly received by the audience.

Wordplay, a world premiere duet for Unity Phelan and Jared Angle of NYCB, recalled moments in Balanchine’s Agon more than once; one can always find precedents, but then something new should emerge; here I kept missing both the word and the play. In a duet for Wendy Whelan and Da’Von Doane of DTH, aptly titled Vigil, Doane mostly lifted the willowy Whelan while she looked angelic, to music by Tomas Luis de Victoria and Sergei Rachmaninoff, sung on stage by the choral ensemble Tapestry. It’s always a joy to see Whelan dance, but on the heels of her evening with Brian Brooks (and if you’ve seen her in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain), this pas de deux seemed a bit hackneyed. And in a later solo, Whelan meandered around the stage with an upright balletic look, made “contemporary” mostly by the socks on her feet.

Everything about the program was polished – especially the wonderful lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker, which signaled mood changes with subtlety. The costumes by Martha Chamberlain were pleasant class wear leotard and tights with skirts, some with geometric designs and flattering mesh backs; Kelli Haase’s renditions for the last piece were similar in style.

The best ballet on the program was Charge (2016), a propulsive closing number with a large cast. Here Ms. Schreier seemed to let herself go, creating something less dependent on the stars in the cast than on an idea that she developed and followed through. Group patterns melted in to lifting couples and rushing movement patterns. The best dancing in this came from a central couple in Charge, wearing white and blue: she was especially confident, and relishing the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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